Synopsis: This is a "trackerless" method conceived to maintain focused on goals, assuming that my cognitive limits are quite low: can hold at most three long-term ideas in my head at the same time for everything in life.
In 2019, I tried modeling my ability to multitask as having "three slots", of which one of those slots was used for working memory just for moving around and monitoring what I was doing at any given time. The implication was that if I tried to hold MORE than two things in my head, it would overload the system.
I wrote about this in the GHDR 2019 Working Process summary:
[...] I am continuing to model myself as a thinking machine with three attention slots that are loaded weekly. This model has come about from years of self observation, balancing the limits of my working memory with the constant need for variety in my activities. The model applies not just to the number of projects I can handle during the week, but also to prioritizing what will get done, which helps me stay focused.
The three slots are:
- SLOT 1 is a singular focus, the "main thing I want to make progress on", usually something I find very difficult. This is an intentional, planned development process. It's the PRIORITY SLOT.
- SLOT 2 is a project to give me some relief from the first one that is already on my mind. Making progress here would be a bonus. This is also intentional, but more emergent as solutions to questions are gathered and collected. This is a SECONDARY WOULD BE NICE SLOT; if I don't get to it during the day it isn't a big deal.
- AUX SLOT is for "everyday tasks" like personal hygiene, getting from A to B, and handling any unplanned events. That includes distraction and structured procrastination activities that just happen.
Each "slot" can be thought of self-contained "mini brain" that can remember a certain amount of context for a longish period of time, similar to the idea of a process thread in a multitasking computer model. Slot 1 is the most powerful one, whereas Slot 2 is somewhat weaker and kicks in when Slot 1 has "overheated" and needs a break. The AUX slot is the one that actually seems to get the most use, because I find staying focused a challenge when the work is meaningless or needlessly mundane. The AUX slot is what takes over when SLOT 1 and 2 are unavailable.
The Two Slot Model is a way of me accepting that I have certain cognitive limits for doing what I am "supposed to be doing", because I am (1) easily bored and (2) unmotived by uncertain rewards. I need a high level of stimulation to operate. In hindsight, these difficulties may be due to my ADHD and ASD diagnosis.
Details of Operation
It is necessary to have a separate planning/prioritization so I know what to load into the slots, otherwise I'm just randomly doing crap. What goes into the slots are the operational goals defined during the planning stage, where executing those goals will lead to meeting of my overall strategic goals.
It may be that the size/scope of a particular task is merely whatever bottleneck needs to be cleared in order to fulfill the strategy, the desired results. This is not particulalry helpful for figuring out HOW to do things or WHAT things should be done first; I might have to think of how that gets done.
I think of slots as something that can "hold" one task each. There is a third auxiliary slot that is used for autonomous motion while I'm thinking about other things. I think this is not the same as the "units of energy" model above, but they are related somehow. Perhaps loading a decided task consumes one of those 4-5 energy units. The two-slot model in operation mandates only two "main tasks" a day, and after those are done the brain is free to randomly pursue what it pursues using the auxiliary slot.
The two main slots can be said to be responsible for controlled execution (purposeful methodical action) with the auxiliary slot handling uncontrolled execution (for "doing random things based on distraction and interest").